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The worry over Amazon hurting grocers is 'overplayed,' outgoing Mondelez CEO says

  • Mondelez International, the maker of snacks such as Oreo cookies and Wheat Thins, tapped Dirk Van de Put, the current CEO of McCain Foods, to be its new CEO.
  • He succeeds Irene Rosenfeld, who is retiring.
  • The change comes amid stagnant organic sales growth at Mondelez, with more consumers reaching for healthier options in place of processed, packaged foods.
  • Meantime, Mondelez has tried to cut costs and innovate with healthier brands.

Amazon going after organic grocer Whole Foods is a testament to the fact that shoppers are picking up food through many more channels today, longtime Mondelez International CEO Irene Rosenfeld told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" Wednesday morning.

But she also called the initial response to Amazon's announcement and the hype about Amazon killing smaller grocers "overplayed." The deal with Whole Foods will take time to pan out and for any one company to see any impacts, she said.

Mondelez said Wednesday that Dirk Van de Put, the current chief executive of Canadian frozen foods maker McCain Foods, will succeed Rosenfeld, who is retiring, in November.

Rosenfeld has been with Mondelez, the maker of snacks such as Oreo cookies and Wheat Thins, for more than 11 years — first as the CEO of Kraft and then as the CEO of Mondelez, which was spun off from Kraft in 2012.

Irene Rosenfeld, CEO of Mondelez International
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters
Irene Rosenfeld, CEO of Mondelez International

"This is a conversation I've been having with the board for a number of years," she said Wednesday about her retirement, adding that Van de Put is a "seasoned" CEO with a "proven track record."

With experience at companies such as Coca-Cola and Danone, Van de Put's skills in the food and beverage industry will be "relevant" as Mondelez embarks on the next chapter of its business, Rosenfeld added.

"I think we're now at the point where it is a good time to hand the reins over to Dirk and the leadership team ... to take it to the next level. ... I will be cheering from the sidelines."

As consumers' taste preferences have evolved, as macroeconomic challenges have brought headwinds, and even as a cyberattack plagued the company's latest quarter, Mondelez has been innovating and is looking ahead to an even better future, Rosenfeld told CNBC.

Wednesday's news arrived amid stagnant organic sales growth at Mondelez, with more consumers reaching for healthier options instead of processed, packaged foods.

One recent, healthier brand addition for Mondelez is called Vea — what's described as a wholesome savory biscuit in flavors such as "Greek hummus" and "Thai coconut."

On Wednesday, Rosenfeld said Mondelez is committed to making sure its products — new and old — are available in all channels, including e-commerce, as shoppers increasingly have more options for places to make purchases.

"Snacking ... isn't a center-store item," the outgoing CEO added, faced with questions about how fewer shoppers are strolling the middle of the grocery store, where boxed goods are sold. Instead, she said Mondelez offers products that are "impulse driven" and "highly expandable."

— Reuters contributed to this report.

WATCH: Irene Rosenfeld to step down as Mondelez CEO